The Nebraska Department of Corrections projects that the turnover rate among guards will be cut nearly in half


LINCOLN, Nebraska — The Nebraska Department of Corrections, which has long been plagued by a high rate of turnover among protective services personnel, now anticipates that the rate of turnover among guards will be reduced by nearly half.

Corrections stated in a news release on Tuesday that it anticipates the turnover rate among custodial employees — the officers and caseworkers who interact directly with offenders — to be approximately 18% by the end of the year.

That compares to a turnover rate of 34% in 2018. In June 2021, the agency reached a peak of 527 vacant positions.

Scott Frakes, director of state corrections, stated that the 18% turnover rate would be the lowest in almost a decade.

Since mid-contract pay rises were implemented in November, starting earnings for corporals and caseworkers have increased from $20 per hour to $28 per hour, bringing them in line with county jail salaries.

Pay increases and recruitment bonuses

The government also offers up to $15,000 in hiring bonuses for security personnel, as well as bonuses for new nurses and food service workers.

Frakes stated, “We are delighted by the continuous interest from individuals relocating from other states.” Our training classes continue to include a large number of persons with prior experience in law enforcement, corrections, and the military, which is an excellent fit for our purposes.

Concerns remain regarding a dearth of medical and mental health providers in state prisons and if the hiring improvements can be sustained, notwithstanding the improvement in hiring security personnel.

overtime charges continue to be expensive.

In a recent annual report, the Inspector General for Corrections Office observed that the Tecumseh State Prison and the Reception and Treatment Center in Lincoln continue to face personnel shortages and activity limits for inmates.

Approximately $22 million was spent on overtime throughout the past year to fill vacant positions with current personnel, according to the study, which indicates that overtime expenses continue to be high. According to the report, one employee collected approximately $126,000 in overtime pay in 2021.

While security personnel vacancies decreased, medical and mental health staff vacancies increased, which the Inspector General’s report deemed “very troubling.”

Vacancies among nurses, dentists

According to the research, about 40 percent of health care posts were unfilled in June, and vacancies among mental health workers had nearly tripled in the past three years.

Corrections spokeswoman Laura Strimple stated that the agency faces the same difficulties as other companies due to a shortage of healthcare employees.

Corrections reports that 675 workers have been added since December, including 576 jobs in protective services. There are 270 new hires from 39 states other than Nebraska.

Reduced limitations on inmates

The boost in staffing, according to the department, will allow Tecumseh and the RTC to reduce inmate limitations from three to two days per week. Frakes stated that as more personnel are hired, the limits on inmates would be relaxed more.

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